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Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops Series

John Brown John, translator of the Zamonia Novels

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Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

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Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

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Ken Scholes author of Lamentation

Cherie Priest author of Boneshaker (review here)

Lev Grossman author of The Magicians (review here)

Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded

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My BlogCatalog BlogRank Wikio - Top Blogs - Literature

REVIEW | Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor)

Cherie Priest is one of those authors I've been hearing good things about for years. However, I've never tried her books previously as I'm not into horror or ghost related tales much, but when I heard she was doing a Steampunk book I immediately added it to my watch list. It did not disappoint at all.  Boneshaker is full of Steampunk awesomeness. The setting is unbelievable detailed with its decrepitness yet infused with a ragamuffin lifestyle of people getting by in the most unexpected ways. You've got mad scientists, steampowered tech, ravenous zombies, air ships, and air pirates all in an eerie apocalyptic landscape.  Yet this is a story with heart.

Set in Seattle circa 19th century, but in an alternative history where the civil war is on going and the gold rush made it to Seattle a little earlier. Boneshaker refers to a machine that wrecked the downtown of Seattle about 15 years prior, which released a gas that turned people to zombies.  The ruined portion of the city has been walled-up since and most people live in what is called "The Outskirts."  Zeke is looking to redeem the Father and Grand Father he never knew for their involvement surrounding the events of the boneshaker so he travels into the walled-off city looking for proof.  His mother predictably goes in after him, but what ensues is a rollicking look into a vivid world.  The point of view switches between mother and son as they stumble through the city and meet allies and enemies.

One thing that may bother some hardcore Steampunkers is this isn't much real Victorian-ness going on, but the other elements of Steampunk are here.  Boneshaker has more of a greasy soot covered Wild West feel to it, but it does make it refreshing to leave England.  The characters start off a bit standoffish, but grow quickly endearing.  Briar is especially a tough nut to crack as she has built-up so many layers between her and her son Zeke, yet she is my favorite.  Briar is a woman who made some very hard choices in life and hasn't had it easy because of those paths chosen.  There are a lot of other intriguing characters as well in this blight soaked city.

Superbly plotted and paced, if you are going to read one Steampunk book this year make it Boneshaker. I give Boneshaker 9 out of 10 Hats. Cherie has a second novel in the series titled Dreadnought coming in 2010 with Tor and a novella, Clementine, expected with Subterranean Press as well.  I'll be procuring both whenever they become available.  I'm interested to see if Priest will focus on the same characters or widen the world and maybe leave Seattle.  Check out Clockwork Century, which supports the world Cherie created and free Clockwork Century story entitled Tanglefoot is available here.  See some of the original sketches for the book cover here.  I do like idea of some recent Steampunk books that are leaving the stuffy Victorian theme behind, but I wonder if we should just start calling the subgenre Steam Fantasy? 


Book link US Europe Canada

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Zombies, airships, and a crazy Seattle. You've really made me want to pick this one up.

The Mad Hatter said...

Glad it sounds up your alley. I'll be posting an Q & A with Cherie next week as well.

Scott said...

I have been wanting to check this one out for awhile. I'll have to order it from Amazon.

Anonymous said...

Mixing steam and zombie-elements is cool. But somehow after reading I was not satisfied, not really pleased. It felt as there was so much more possible and it means the book is highly overrated. The story is enough for a hollywood-b-movie but not for a highly praised and critically acclaimed novel. It was nice to read but not more. I missed complexity, character depth and not such a one-way-action sequence.
Strange to me is that I hope Cherie Priest will intensify the reading experience in her created world in upcoming novels and I'll risk to pick them up.
But when it comes to steampunk she should learn from China Miéville.
My rating is a 6/10.

Unknown said...

Meh. I really wanted to like this, but it just felt flat and derivative to me. I mean, it hits almost every single plot point out of Escape from New York (including the tower sequence) but also manages to throw in zombies for some unnecessary reason.

The only part that felt legitimate was the opening focusing on a mother's love and the drudgery of her daily life. Not exactly compelling stuff when I'd come in expecting a rollicking good time. When it finally does start it felt oddly joyless, like she wasn't relishing in these concepts so much as just trotting out what she felt was expected of her.

It didn't feel like it had was written with any particular point or concept in mind, just throw a bunch of various popular genre tropes into a blender, stick them into an existing plot, and sell it to an all too willing public.

At the same time while it was dull, mercenary, and unoriginal there wasn't anything actively bad about it. It was just slight and inconsequential. I felt myself hoping that somehow there was an alternate universe where the same book was made, but better (and preferably without the zombies in as they felt deeply unnecessary, I remember wondering why we didn't get more media with zombies about a decade past and now I feel like I'm reaping the windfall of some terrible curse about getting what you wish for).

I give it a 4/10 (below-average), but to me I need a book (or any media) to be a 6 or a 7 before I decide it's worth my time. I can't be bothered to put up with mediocrity. With the undeserved hype and quotes from authors whose opinions I value (and who appear carefully chosen to target just the right market) it might even rate a spiteful 3 for balance.